There are about a million choices a mother must make before delivering a child. From conception to postpartum, mothers must consider not only the health of the baby but also her own needs and wellbeing. Since there’s no universally “right” or “wrong” birth choice, each mother must decide what she wants her journey to look like. For many mothers, it means having a natural birth. Given that birth is one of the most natural events in the history of mankind, it’s only fitting that this should be a desirable option for many. But what does a natural birth look like exactly?
The term ‘natural birth’ can encompass many different styles of birthing. It is not just ‘one’ thing. When most people think about a natural birth, they think of the vaginal labor process without an epidural. But there is more to natural birth than the mechanics. Many natural births don’t use any kind of pain medication, whereas others may just use the bare minimum such as over the counter painkillers and intervention when necessary. The average number of women who get epidurals at some point in their labor is about 71%. Therefore, it’s considered quite normal to have this method of pain relief. In some cases, choosing natural birth means refraining from other medical interventions, like fetal monitoring and episiotomies. However, many women choose to be quite fluid within the natural birthing philosophy and encourage some medicalization when necessary.
Natural birth plans may also dictate or suggest the type of medical professional you choose (those who support and are experienced in natural births). Mothers are in charge of their birth, and should customize the experience to suit their preferences. This might mean bringing in a doula or choosing to have a more medicalized experience.
It is commonly believed that, as birth is a natural process, your body knows what to do without medical interventions. Pain medications are highly effective these days, but they don’t come without risks. An epidural is a very strong medication, and for a baby who is only about 5% of the mother’s mass, it can be a lot to handle. Some babies take a while to gain full awareness after being exposed to an epidural. Consequently, some women feel it can hinder the bond initially created between the mother and baby. The reasoning behind this is that epidurals interfere with natural hormones (oxytocin) in the body. This can prolong the labor process and make it more difficult for the baby to endure.
While epidurals are normally safe, they can pose some health risks, especially for high risk pregnancies. Additionally, most women cannot walk around after receiving an epidural because it limits mobility and requires an IV line to be attached to a machine. That may present difficulties in changing positions for easier delivery and labor.
If you’re reluctant to have an epidural, there are lots of natural options that can help women cope with labor and delivery. Massage, changing position, water immersion during pre-labor, birthing classes, and even hypnobirthing. These are all viable options that have been proven to work. Depending on your preferences, the midwife, doula, or doctor can work with you to determine the best option and how to implement each. This is one of the many reasons why having a birth plan is extremely important.
Birth partners can play an important role in helping to reduce a mother’s discomfort. Fathers, for example, can take an active role in helping Mom change positions, or generally help make her feel more at ease. Because natural birthing in a highly powerful, intimate and challenging experience, the role of birthing partners and the support and encouragement they bring should not be underestimated.
How you choose to birth your baby is entirely up to you. If you are a first-time-Mom, you might feel unsure about what natural birthing will be like. Many women have found that once labor starts, they have the instinct to birth without intervention. The most important thing is that you are comfortable with your birth plan. Natural birth can be a beautiful and safe option for many women. It can allow both the mother and child to be alert, present, and ready to experience the world together. To find out more information about natural births, click here.